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The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko by Jestina Mukoko

The perpetrators have been protected, but I still believe that if I am to heal completely, I deserve to know the truth about why I was abducted.’

PAGE 113

 

Jestina Mukoko is a well known former broadcast journalist and human rights activist from Zimbabwe. She left the national broadcaster in 2000 to head the Zimbabwe Peace Project in 2002. In 2008 she was abducted and would go on to tried on charges that did not make sense to many Zimbabweans; conspiring to overthrow the government. Her story is one of persecution, resilience in the face of a storm and commitment to forge the way forward in the continued fight for human rights in Zimbabwe. Elinor Sisulu, Jestina Mukoko’s friend and colleague gives a heartfelt and eye opening foreword. A few months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend about how there are so many stories that are untold of women who have done great work in the fight for human rights in Zimbabwe. Some have been recorded and others are yet to see the light of day. While, Elinor Sisulu does a great job in introducing this book, I am grateful for the women she mentions in her foreword. I was still young when many of these things happened and behind the walls of boarding school, current affairs is not so current. Elinor reminds us that there were many women who were victims of state oppression during that period. She mentions some of them; Gertrude Hambira, Tecla Masamba, Martha Kajama and Miriam Katumba. I have a keen interest in these women’s works and I have started researching on them. Jestina Mukoko’s account of her experience leaves one with a whirlwind of emotions.


In thirteen chapters the limits of my anger were tested. One of the things, that I appreciate about this book, is the power in storytelling. On 3 December 2008 Jestina Mukoko was abducted from her home in Norton only to be located at a local police station by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on 23 December 2008. In between those two events she endured torture at a secret location and was threatened with death by the people who held her hostage. While reading what she went through I could not help but feel a certain anger when she recalls how she had sleepless nights thinking about her son who had watched her being escorted out of their home clad in a night dress. Her love for her son was not lost to the abductors as they would later on try to use that love as bait. She says, “Distracted from the goings on in the room, I wondered what had happened to my son. The woman forced a thick needle into my heart, ‘By not giving us the information that we require from you, what you have done in the process is to sign away an opportunity to unite with your son. Only an irresponsible mother does what you are doing.’” These words broke her heart and were meant to break her spirit too yet she held on to what she knew to be her truth.



Jestina Mukoko raises an important question as she narrates her experience, prosecution or persecution? From 24 December 2008 to May 2009 she would be in and out of court, in and out of hospital, transferred from Harare Remand Prison to Chikurubi Maximum Prison. In what is a detailed account one cannot help but notice the dehumanizing treatment which political prisoners and generally prisoners are subjected to. Jestina Mukoko gives a detailed description of the prison system and how several fundamental rights are violated in a space which is often justified as being a rehabilitation centre. This reminded me of some of the poems by Dr Stella Nyanzi in her anthology ‘No Roses From My Mouth,’ where she chastises the prison system (you can read my review here). One could conclude that the system is the same everywhere. What then kept Jestina Mukoko strong and gave her the power to soldier on? She speaks of faith, the truth, her family and a wider community that stood beside her. ‘As a coping mechanism I used the length of time spent by fellow human rights defenders to prepare myself physically and spiritually. Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise had been held for 37 days. When I passed that mark I focused on fellow journalist Luke Tamborinyoka who was incarcerated for 71 days.’ She would continue counting the days until she tasted freedom.


We should be very afraid when people go missing. Even after the permanent stay of her prosecution by the Constitutional Court in September 2009, due to the fact that her constitutional rights had been violated, the persecution continued in 2013. The Zimbabwe Peace Project’s offices were raided by the police. To this day Jestina Mukoko does not know why she was abducted, she has met some of the people who tortured her, in airports and in the streets, but she cannot do anything about it. To this day she wonders if she was used as a political pawn in a bigger game, unknown to her. Her gratitude to those who were with her during this time knows no bounds and she expresses it in this narration. This book was published in 2016 and as of October 2018 the state had been ordered to pay US$150 000 to Jestina Mukoko as compensation for the violation of her rights; the abduction, the detention incommunicado and the torture. She had demanded payment of US$220 000 in her lawsuit against the state. This had me thinking that no compensation will ever be enough to take away the torture, the degradation and trauma of the experience. To her, her family and those who suffered with her. She continues to defend human rights in Zimbabwe, and that can only be an act of purpose. This is a book written in easy language but the pain sits beside you as you flip the pages to the end. How many more?

 

Book Details


Title: The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko; the Fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe

Author: Jestina Mukoko

Genre: Nonfiction

Pages: 154

Publisher: KMM Review Publishing (2016)

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